The Kratom Debate: Helpful Herb Or Dangerous Drug?
(Source: npr.org)

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(Original link: npr.org)

Kratom Gets Reprieve From Drug Enforcement Administration
But the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration worry that kratom carries the risk of physical and psychological dependency and, in some people, addiction. The FDA warns consumers not to use kratom , and the DEA threatened to prohibit kratom's sale and use in the U.S. (outside of research) in 2016; advocates and lawmakers subsequently pushed back , and the stricter scheduling of kratom that would have prompted that sort of ban never occurred. These days, the DEA lists it as a drug of concern .
"Kratom changed my life"
Linda Kline owns Bumble Bee Botanicals, which sells kratom in five upscale shops throughout the West, including this one in San Francisco. All her products are lab tested to ensure purity, Kline says. Lesley McClurg/KQED hide caption toggle caption Lesley McClurg/KQED Linda Kline owns Bumble Bee Botanicals, which sells kratom in five upscale shops throughout the West, including this one in San Francisco. All her products are lab tested to ensure purity, Kline says. Lesley McClurg/KQED
Linda Kline, 33, based in Reno, Nev., sells kratom for a living. She says her several stores throughout the West have given her a new purpose in life. And while she herself doesn't have an opioid dependency, she credits kratom with turning around her mental health.
"I went from feeling desperate and hopeless to finding an alternative where I had full control over how I felt," she says.
She used to be paralyzed by anxiety and panic attacks. When her insurance carrier threatened to cut her Prozac prescription, she felt desperate. A friend suggested kratom, so she picked some up at a smoke shop.
"It almost feels like you're having just a little glass of wine," Kline says. "It's really relaxing. There's no melting of the walls."
The new habit cost about $6 a day — less than a glass of wine or fancy cup of coffee. But Kline says she couldn't always find a high-quality supply. The FDA has recalled dozens of salmonella-tainted products sold online or in convenience stores. The agency has also found toxic heavy metals in kratom supplements.
That's one reason Kline started her own chic boutiques, Bumble Bee Botanicals , devoted exclusively to kratom products that, she says, are all lab tested to ensure purity. She just opened her fifth location in less than two years. The shops offer 15 kratom strains at outlets in California, Idaho and Nevada.
Though Kline's website has a disclaimer that her products have not been evaluated by the FDA and "are not intended to cure, treat or prevent any disease/illness," some of her clients' online Yelp reviews claim kratom has dramatically relieved their chronic pain, insomnia, restless legs syndrome and more.
Gold Bali is a strain of kratom sold at Bumble Bee Botanicals in San Francisco. "It almost feels like you're having just a little glass of wine," Kline says of kratom. "It's really relaxing." Lesley McClurg/KQED hide caption toggle caption Lesley McClurg/KQED Gold Bali is a strain of kratom sold at Bumble Bee Botanicals in San Francisco. "It almost feels like you're having just a little glass of wine," Kline says of kratom. "It's really relaxing." Lesley McClurg/KQED
Potential dangers
Glowing reviews like that haunt Mateo Martinez.
"My brother believed the marketing of kratom — that it was a natural herbal supplement that could provide you with the same benefits of an opioid without the risks," Mateo says.
Mateo's younger brother, Marco, struggled with an opioid addiction in high school. Mateo describes Marco as a charismatic, creative teen, passionate about video games, cartoons and anime. Marco got hooked on painkillers, Mateo says, after his dentist pulled his wisdom teeth.
"He was using them in a way that wasn't just for treating pain," Mateo says.
Email receipts show Marco used bitcoin to also buy Vicodin and fentanyl on the dark web. Aspiring Doctors Seek Advanced Training In Addiction Medicine
Eventually Marco wanted to kick his opioid addiction and saw testimonials on YouTube and Reddit that promised that kratom could be a way out. Soon Marco was popping kratom capsules multiple times a day.
During his freshman year at the University of California, Davis, the 19-year-old started hyperventilating regularly. The incidents worsened, becoming seizure-like episodes and ending in trips to the emergency room. During each hospitalization, the doctors were stumped. No one thought to test for kratom.
Marco died in his UC Davis dorm in February 2018, late on a Sunday night. The toxicology report listed "acute mitragynine intoxication" — a chemical constituent of kratom — as the cause of death.
" I think kratom needs to come with a much more serious caution that it is not harmless," Mateo says. "I'm very heartbroken."
In a recent 18-month period, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 90 kratom overdoses, although most involved a combination of other substances too.
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